Among the list of must-see anime is Fullmetal Alchemist, a captivating series about two brothers named Edward and Alphonse Elric, who travel the world as State Alchemists to find the legendary Philosopher's Stone. The Elric brothers’s journey to regain what they’ve lost after failing to resurrect their late mother through alchemy is a rollercoaster of human emotions.
For every small victory comes an emotional loss, but as the series’s motto goes, “to gain something, an alchemist must sacrifice something of equal value.” The story of Fullmetal Alchemist resonates with so many anime fans, however, with two anime adaptations available, it didn't take long for arguments to erupt over which one is better.
Both the 2003 version of Fullmetal Alchemist and the 2009 series, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, are worth watching. Each series brought a unique perspective to the original manga story by Hiromu Arakawa. While Brotherhood is generally thought of as superior for merely sticking closer to the manga, there are crucial aspects of the original anime series that are simply better.
Below are 15 reasons why Fullmetal Alchemist 2003 is better than Brotherhood. If you enjoy this list, make sure to check out 30 of the best Fullmetal Alchemist AMVs of all time.
The early episodes of Brotherhood were rushed out to make way for more content from the manga. While understandable, it means that memorable scenes from the original anime do not have the same emotional impact in Brotherhood.
A fine example of this is the story arc of Nina Tucker, the four-year-old girl who becomes the guinea pig for her father’s chimera experiment. The 2003 version builds up the girl's relationship with the Elric brothers over three episodes. Brotherhood, on the other hand, tries to wrap the whole thing up in one episode. The moment of loss in Brotherhood simply doesn't have the same effect as it does in the 2003 version.
As mentioned in the list of sympathetic anime villains you can’t help but feel sorry for, the tragic 2003 anime version of Lust is a far more compelling character to watch than her Brotherhood counterpart.
In the original anime, there is a lot to chew on with Lust: Her relationship with the Elric brothers, the estrange yet emotional confrontation with Scar, and her decision to defect from Dante and her fellow Homunculus. In comparison, the Brotherhood version of Lust is just a sexy evil woman.
Another powerful moment lost in Brotherhood is the passing of beloved character Maes Hughes – the Amestrian State Military officer who was extremely devoted to his wife and little girl. While the depiction of Hughes's demise in Brotherhood is far from insipid, the 2003 anime is able to deliver a stronger emotional impact due to the character having more screen time.
Ed’s reaction towards Hughes's passing is also stronger in the 2003 anime, as he has to be physically restrained by Winry and Sheska after hearing the awful news.
The origin story behind the Homunculus in the 2003 series is far more interesting than Brotherhood's retelling. In the original anime, the Homunculus are the horrible aftermath of Human Transmutation. In the case of Ed and Al, their Human Transmutation results in Sloth, a Homunculus who appears similar to their mom but lacks her heart and soul.
Using the Homunculus as a painful reminder to those who play God is a brilliant storytelling move. In comparison, the Homunculus in the 2009 anime are just the human vices that Father separated from his body years ago.